Japanese women give male co-workers “obligation chocolate” on Valentine’s Day

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woman looking at chocolate fountain

Valentine's Day in Japan is celebrated a little bit differently than here in the United States, as women present chocolates to male co-workers, as opposed to husbands and lovers, in a tradition known as "giri choco," or "obligation chocolate."

"On Valentine's Day, I expect many people to start giving chocolates to colleagues. I made and gave chocolates to fifteen male colleagues. It took me three hours to make them. The reaction from them was really good. I enjoyed Valentine's Day," said Tokyo office worker Akemi Hayashibara, sounding as if all fifteen colleagues were watching her being interviewed.

The role-reversing custom in Japan began around 1950, and has expanded to "sewa choco," where women give chocolates to men they respect (and implying that under "giri choco" they give chocolates to scumbags they wouldn't otherwise give the time of day to), and "tomo choco," where they give chocolates to female friends. Since February 14 falls on a weekday this year, analysts say they expect a bonanza for Japanese candy makers. Maybe "relationship expert" Marc Rudov should move to Japan.